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A major snowstorm is expected to hit MIT today, as winter storm Nemo makes its way across the coast. MIT announced last night that it would be closed today — the second campus closure due to weather this year, after Hurricane Sandy shuttered the Institute on Oct. 29, 2012. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency that will be effective today starting at noon. Community members should check emergency.mit.edu for the most up-to-date information.

Nemo will dump one to two feet of snow on Boston between Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, with snow potentially coming down at a rate of up to two to four inches per hour. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for this weekend, predicting winds over 30 mph with gusts up to 65 mph and possible coastal flooding. Temperatures will be in the 20s.

Snow is expected to begin this morning, but not hit Cambridge in full force until this evening. The worst of the storm is expected Saturday morning near Cape Cod, according to the National Weather Service. If it snows more than 18.2 inches, Nemo will be one of the worst winter storms in New England history (see sidebar). The snow should stop in Boston by Saturday evening.

Impact on MIT

Ahead of the official announcement, many labs and classes canceled tomorrow’s activities. CSAIL had asked employees to stay home; the weekly lab classes for the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program were canceled for the day; and the Department for Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) canceled all recreational events. The Z-Center will remain closed on Saturday. In an email to all of CSAIL, Karen Shirer, the assistant director for administration, wrote, “Given the projected snow storm for tomorrow, Feb. 8, 2013, and potential for dangerous and time-consuming commutes, we are recommending that anyone who can work from home, please do so.” Most of the building will be locked for the day.

MIT Career Services has canceled all in-person interviews for today. Many companies are on campus doing interviews for full-time and summer positions and have had to reschedule their appointments. Skype and phone interviews are to proceed as scheduled.

Transportation

The MBTA will cease service at 3:30 p.m. today and will operate at a decreased capacity throughout the day. For updates, check the MBTA’s website at http://www.mbta.com/winter/. On the road, white-out conditions are expected on I-95 for today’s evening commute.

EZ Ride will implement its Early Release schedule today. In an email to parkinfo@mit.edu, Larry Brutti, operations manager of the MIT parking and transportation office, wrote, “Evening Shuttles will begin operating full evening service at 2:00 p.m. inbound from Cambridgeport (2:32 p.m. outbound from North Station). Service will end ONE HOUR EARLIER than normally scheduled, with the 6:30 p.m. inbound shuttle from Cambridgeport (last outbound from North Station at 6:10 p.m.).” More complete information can be found at http://www.charlesrivertma.org/program_ezride_advisories.htm.

MIT encourages those commuting to take public transit and leave cars at home, since road conditions will be very poor. The city of Boston has also requested drivers stay off the road so the Boston Public Works crew can clear the streets more easily.

In addition, the cities of Cambridge and Boston have both declared a snow emergency and thus a parking ban. Nonessential city staff have been told to stay home, and public schools in the area will be closed. Community members looking for more information can call the snow line at 617-253-SNOW. For additional snow and safety tips, visit http://www.cityofboston.gov/snow.

The Blizzard of 1978

Warnings of the severe wether have caused Boston residents to recall the blizzard of early Feb. 1978, when 27.1 inches of snow fell on New England (there had also been a notable previous blizzard in January of the same year). 23.6 of those inches fell within 24 hours, with the peak snow rate around three inches per hour.

Cars were stranded on the highway because of the deep snow, and houses along the coastline were destroyed by waves. The storm, which lasted nearly 36 hours, held sustained winds of over 35 mph for more than three hours at a time. 1,950 cars were abandoned on I-95; 2,000 homes were destroyed; over 10,000 people were in storm shelters; and 54 people died. The damage of the storm was estimated to be around $1 billion.

Like for today’s storm, back in 1978 Massachusetts declared a state of emergency and the Institute closed (though for the whole first week of classes!). Cars on dorm row were towed, and the Lecture Series Committee (LSC) worried that they would not be able to get their shipment of movies for the weekend. You can read the original Tech article about the famous blizzard here: http://tech.mit.edu/V98/PDF/N2.pdf.